Exclusive: Three Red Wall Conservatives in talks to defect to Labour

·3-min read
Three Red Wall Conservatives could be set to join the Labour benches - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Via Reuters
Three Red Wall Conservatives could be set to join the Labour benches - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Via Reuters

Three Red Wall Conservative MPs are in defection talks with Labour, The Telegraph can reveal.

Labour sources told The Telegraph that the three male Conservatives, first elected in 2019, have entered formal discussions about crossing the floor to join Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

Those familiar with discussions said the MPs had slim majorities in Red Wall areas in the North that had historically voted Labour and believed they would lose their seats at the next election if they did not defect.

It is understood the three have felt dissatisfied with Boris Johnson’s leadership in recent weeks and were pushed towards the decision after a confidence vote in which 148 Tory MPs did not back the Prime Minister.

One source who has spoken to the MPs said they were frustrated with the “ideological direction” of the Conservative Party.

A second said talks with one Conservative were at initial stages, but another was in live discussions with the Labour whips’ office. The whips’ office declined to comment.

Three defections after the loss of the Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield by-elections would mean Mr Johnson’s effective majority in the Commons would be reduced by 10, making it significantly easier for Tory rebels to defeat the Government.

It would be the biggest defection from the Conservatives since 2019, when Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston joined Change UK. The latter two lost their seats at the 2019 election, while Ms Allen chose not to stand again.

Mr Johnson, who is down in the polls and has struggled to recover from the partygate scandal in recent months, said on Monday he believed he had a “new mandate” to lead the Tories because he had won the confidence vote.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, he said he was “focused 1,000 per cent” on delivering a “massive, massive agenda” for the country and was not considering his position. He added: “Nobody abandons a privilege like that.”

On Monday, two Conservative MPs who had been widely thought to have been considering defection denied they were planning to cross the floor.

Dehenna Davison, the MP for Bishop Auckland, said: “For the avoidance of doubt – again – I’m not bloody defecting. To those anonymous colleagues spreading such rumours, my door is always open for a chat.”

Caroline Nokes, a senior backbencher who has been critical of Mr Johnson in recent months, said: “Me neither – just to pop that on the record.”

The news that three Tory MPs could cross the floor follows the defection of Christian Wakeford, the MP for Bury South, in January.

Mr Wakeford joined the Labour benches shortly before Prime Minister’s Questions, later blaming Mr Johnson’s “disgraceful” conduct for his decision.

“The policies of the Conservative government that you lead are doing nothing to help the people of my constituency and indeed are only making the struggles they face on a daily basis worse,” he said.

Mr Wakeford’s defection was a closely-guarded secret within the Labour Party, with only a handful of senior advisers to Sir Keir privy to the knowledge.

A Labour source later speculated that more MPs could follow suit, as the party launched “Operation Domino”.

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